When Catherina Cramer took the leadership role at Warsteiner, she was the ninth generation of Cramer’s to lead the brewery, but the first female in this prominent position. The brewery had been run by males for eight generations dating back to the early 1700s.
Catherina had always questioned why Warsteiner Importers Agency did not employ more female employees. Warsteiner’s pay scale was such that when a qualified female was hired, trained and placed in the marketplace, in most cases, the employee would be pouched by a competitor. Inevitably, the competitor could pay a higher salary, give larger bonuses, and had superior, bonus programs, benefits, and typically a car. It was very frustrating and expensive for Warsteiner.
Decades ago the beer industry was male-dominated. The only females in the business were widows of husbands who had owned distributorships. It was not until I got to Coors of Kansas in the late 70s that we started to recruit women. Breweries were the same way.
The first brewery to really utilize females was Boston Beers, whose sales director was Ronda Kallman. By design, the sales force of Jim Koch and Ronda Kalman sales was predominately female. Boston Beers’ success with females did not go unnoticed by other breweries. A change was underway.
In today’s beer industry, women play a major role. Many craft breweries are run and owned by women. Perhaps the best known is Kim Jordan of New Belgium who founded the company over 25 years ago. New Belgium is one of the largest crafts in the country now.
No woman has led a major U.S. brewery or importer. Last week, however, Heineken appointed Maggie Timoney CEO of their U.S. business. This appointment goes beyond gender, Maggie is the first American to lead Heineken in years.
Heineken has been in catch-up mode since Corona flew past Heineken as the number one import beer. The acquisition of importing rights years ago, combined with Heineken’s transfer of their distribution from a predominately wine and spirits system to the beer network made an impact on their sales.
Heineken’s packaging changes, coupled with the long neck bottle, did little to help, and their media programming was questionable at best. Many, if not most, of these decisions, were driven by Heineken leaders from Holland.
The story is the same and, unfortunately, frequently repeats itself: the new leader, not knowing the inner-workings of the U.S. market, initially visits the major wholesalers and gets an ear-full. He then visits key retailers and attains feedback. And, of course, the agency visits are part of the initiation process. The U.S. learning curve is typically about five years. Before this five-year window ends, the CEO is replaced with another CEO and either moved to the home office or is off to “pursue other interests.”
The industry will be following Maggie Timoney very closely, not because of her gender, but because of what is riding on Heineken’s brands. Many of Heineken’s wholesalers are gold wholesalers, and given what Constellation is doing, Heineken’s time is running short.
As usual, behind every great woman is an idiot…